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What is the PSAT 8/9? Everything You Need to Know

By Cece Gilmore

Cece Gilmore is a Content Writer at Scholarships360. Cece earned her undergraduate degree in Journalism and Mass Communications from Arizona State University. While at ASU, she was the education editor as well as a published staff reporter at Downtown Devil. Cece was also the co-host of her own radio show on Blaze Radio ASU.

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Posted: April 9th, 2024
What is the PSAT 8/9? Everything You Need to Know

The College Board offers the PSAT 8/9 which is a precursor to the PSAT 10, PSAT/NMSQT and the SAT. So, is the PSAT 8/9 necessary to take for college bound students? Read more to find out everything you need to know about the PSAT 8/9. 

What is the PSAT 8/9? 

The PSAT 8/9 is an exam offered for 8th and 9th grade students in order to establish a starting point in terms of college and career readiness as they begin their high school journey. The PSAT 8/9 tests students on reading, writing, and math. It is a part of the SAT Suite of Assessments which includes the SAT, the PSAT/NMSQT, and the PSAT 10. Unlike the PSAT/NMSQT, the PSAT 8/9 does not affect a student’s college applications or scholarship opportunities. Rather, the PSAT 8/9 is a baseline exam for students to gain a good understanding of the types of questions they may see on future exams found in the SAT Suite of Assessments. 

Also see: PSAT to SAT score conversion: predict your score

What is on the PSAT 8/9? 

The PSAT 8/9 is broken down into reading & writing and math, totaling 98 questions. A majority of the questions are multiple choice; however, a few of the math section questions ask students to type in the answer rather than select it. The content of the PSAT 8/9 is very similar to the SAT but there is no essay section on the PSAT 8/9. 

Related: PSAT vs SAT: everything you need to know

The time allotted and number of questions on the PSAT 8/9 is broken down in the chart below: 

SectionLength (minutes)Number of Questions
Reading and Writing6454

Reading and writing section

The reading and writing section consist of 54 questions. In this section, students answer multiple-choice questions about passages which require students to use information found in the text, analyze the structure of the passage, and revise texts to make ideas clearer. The passages can be about varying subject areas including history, the humanities, and science. 

Typically the questions in the reading and writing section will fall into one of the following categories: 

  • Craft and structure
  • Information and ideas
  • Standard English conventions
  • Expression of ideas 

Also see: Top SAT reading tips 


The math section consists of 44 questions. An acceptable calculator is allowed throughout the whole math section. The math section focuses on key elements of algebra, advanced math, problem-solving, data analysis, geometry, and trigonometry.  Around 30% of math questions in this section are set in context. Meaning, they require students to consider a real-world scenario and apply math skills to determine an answer. 

Typically, the questions in the math section will fall into one of the following categories: 

  • Algebra
  • Advanced math
  • Problem-solving and data analysis
  • Geometry and trigonometry 

Related: Top SAT math tips 

When is the PSAT 8/9 offered? 

Students cannot register for the PSAT 8/9 on their own. Rather, their school or district chooses whether and when to offer it. PSAT 8/9 testing are available on the following dates: 

  • March 4 – April 16, 2024
  • October 1 – October 31, 2024
  • March 3 – April 30, 2025 

Is the PSAT 8/9 digital? 

Yes! Beginning in fall of 2023, the PSAT 8/9 is digital as a part of the College Board’s efforts to turn most of their exams digital. This means that students taking the PSAT 8/9 will be using the Bluebook software to take the exam either on a school device or on an approved personal device. 

Below is a list of materials that you will need to bring for PSAT 8/9 test day: 

  • A pen or pencil for scratch work (does not need to be a #2 pencil) 
  • A fully charged and acceptable device with Bluebook downloaded
  • A valid photo ID for check0in 
  • An acceptable calculator (not necessary) 
  • Extra batteries or a charger (not necessary) 

Related: The digital SAT: everything you need to know

How is the PSAT 8/9 scored? 

The total score for the PSAT 8/9 ranges from 240 to 1440. Students can receive a score ranging from 120 to 720 for both the reading & writing section and for the math section. 

The SAT Suite of Assessments uses a common score scale for the total and section scores. The ranges reported represent grade-level appropriateness within the common score scale. This explains why the total range for the SAT is 400 to 1600 while the PSAT 8/9 range is a lower 240 to 1440. 

The common score scale means that a score of 500 on the PSAT 8/9 would also be a score of 500 on the PSAT/NMSQT, the SAT or the PSAT 10 as a way of keeping the scoring uniform throughout the SAT Suite of Assessments. 

This also means that student growth across the SAT Suite of Assessments is easy to determine. For example, if the student received a 500 on the math section of the PSAT 8/9 and then the next year received a 550 on the math section of the PSAT 10, then the student has shown a growth of 50 points. 

What is a PSAT 8/9 benchmark score? 

The PSAT 8/9 offers grade-level benchmarkers to gauge whether students are on track to becoming college ready. 

Below are the PSAT 8/9 benchmarks for 8th and 9th grade: 

Reading and WritingMath
8th Grade PSAT 8/9390430
9th Grade PSAT 8/9410450

The PSAT 8/9 benchmark scores are a great tool for gauging if a student is on track to succeed in future SAT Suite of Assessments tests. The great thing about the PSAT 8/9 is that it is simply a measurement of this student’s benchmark or starting point. Therefore, based on the results of the PSAT 8/9 a student can determine what future steps they will need to take in order to best prepare and succeed in their future. 

For example, if a student is meeting a benchmark for a section, they can continue to take harder classes in that subject such as IB or AP courses in order to stay on track for college success. Another example is if a student is not meeting a benchmark, then they can work closely with their teachers and/or utilize other helpful resources to improve their understanding of subject material.

However, it is important to remember that the PSAT 8/9 is just one test that may not accurately measure a student’s benchmark or baseline knowledge of a subject. Therefore, do not let your score discourage you if it is not what you hoped for. It is important to use the PSAT 8/9 as a tool for practice and to better understand yourself as a test-taker. So, do not place all of your weight and worth into just one exam. Rather, use the PSAT 8/9 as a starting point and tool for beginning the college admissions process! 

What is the AP Potential report? 

SAT Suite of Assessment scores are a strong predictor of a student’s AP Exam scores. AP Potential is a free online tool that allows schools to generate a roster of students who are likely to score a 3 or higher on a given AP Exam based on their performance on the PSAT 8/9, PSAT 10, PSAT/NMSQT or SAT. 

When students receive their PSAT 8/9 scores, they will also be able to see their AP Potential report along with the ability to connect with career and college tools. The AP Potential report is a great tool for determining if a student is ready for an AP level course or not. However, it is important to note that the report is not meant to discourage students from taking AP courses. Other factors should be considered when determining if an AP course is right for them. 


Range of scores240-1440320-1520320-1520
Length2 hours and 14 minutes2 hours and 14 minutes2 hours and 14 minutes
Age8th and 9th gradeSophomoreSophomore or Junior
Number of reading and writing questions545454
Number of math questions444444
National Merit Scholarship opportunity? NoNo Yes

Should students take the PSAT 8/9? 

The PSAT 8/9 is an exam designed to provide students with a benchmark and feel of the College Board testing format before taking the PSAT and ultimately the SAT. The PSAT 8/9 typically has no stakes as it has no bearing on the student’s college admissions or grade in school. Rather, it is a way to see where you are at in terms of readiness for college without any negative consequences. 

So, if you are curious about where you are at in the college readiness process, it may be beneficial to take the PSAT 8/9 to become familiar with the format and understand what you may need to practice before taking more higher-stakes exams such as the PSAT or the SAT. 

However, the PSAT 8/9 is not necessary to take, so if you feel that you are alright in terms of readiness for the PSAT 10 or the PSAT/NMSQT, then skipping the PSAT 8/9 may be a good idea. For some students, it caused unnecessary stress. Ultimately, the PSAT 8/9 is a low-stakes study tool for the PSAT/NMSQT and the SAT. Therefore, whether or not taking the PSAT 8/9 will be beneficial for you depends on your personal academic needs and goals.

Key Takeaways

Key Takeaways

  • The PSAT 8/9 is for 8th and 9th graders and tests students on reading, writing and math
  • The purpose of the PSAT 8/9 is to set a starting point for students to progress and identify any areas students should focus on 
  • PSAT 8/9 scores are not sent to colleges 
  • Students can only sign up for the PSAT 8/9 through their school not through the College Board
  • The PSAT 8/9 cannot qualify students for the National Merit Scholarship Program
Key Takeaways

Frequently asked questions about the PSAT 8/9

How should I study for the PSAT 8/9?

It may be surprising to hear, but you do not technically need to study for the PSAT 8/9! Rather, you should be paying attention in class and completing your homework to the best of your ability. The PSAT 8/9 is meant to test where you are at in your knowledge currently. Therefore, the PSAT 8/9 uses the skills you learned in the classroom to provide a true starting point of your progress.

Is the PSAT 8/9 free?

Schools will have to pay $14 for each PSAT 8/9 test they administer. Some schools may ask students to pay the fee, but many cover part or all of the cost for their students. So, be sure to talk with your counselor to find out the cost of the PSAT 8/9 at your school. 

Can I take the PSAT 8/9 twice?

Technically, yes you can take the PSAT 8/9 in both 8th and 9th grade. However, there may not be much benefit in doing so as the PSAT 8/9 is used for progress placement and not for college admissions. It also depends on whether your school offers the test for both 8th and 9th grade as students cannot sign up directly for the PSAT 8/9.

Who do the PSAT 8/9 scores get sent to?

The PSAT 8/9 scores are sent to the student’s school and sometimes the district and state the student lives in. Colleges do not receive the students PSAT 8/9 score and the score is not included on a students’ academic transcripts.

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